What is a Customised Pregnancy Diet Plan and Should You Go for It?
"Following a customised pregnancy diet plan can sometimes thwart certain pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infections, anaemias, and other complicating conditions" - Eve Persak, Nutritionist.
The phrase “you are what you eat” holds such a lot of weight to it, and even more so during pregnancy when you are responsible for the nutrition for your growing baby as well. It is no surprise then that paying attention to what you consume while expecting a baby, and drawing up and sticking to a pregnancy diet plan is of the utmost importance to ensure that you are getting adequate nutrients to sustain yourself and your growing baby.
However, while all pregnant mothers can benefit from a universal set of guidelines on what to eat and what not to eat when they are growing a baby, having a personalised pregnancy diet plan that takes into account specific issues such as any pre-existing conditions during pregnancy, intolerances, and allergies, and overall nutrients that your body is in need of, will help you pay more attention to your nutrition during one of the times when your body needs some extra TLC the most.
TheAsianparent speaks to Eve Persak, Registered Dietician and resident Nutritionist at COMO Shambhala, to help mothers understand the importance of a customised diet plan during pregnancy.
Pregnancy diet plan
Nutrition plan and advice for mothers
Speaking to Eve, we learned that a customised pregnancy diet plan varies from person to person and takes into account a lot of factors including:
- Lifestyle – physical activity, sleep habits, stress levels, mood, past or current alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.
- Health – past & present medical issues, family history
- Medications and supplements
- Food intolerances, allergies, and preferences
- Digestive concerns
- Culinary skills or resources
- Food availability
- Wellness priorities – short- and/or long-term goals
- Culture – this is often overlooked or underestimated, but eating patterns, mealtime customs, or staple foods can differ drastically between ethnic or racial groups
“I usually take some time to discuss what information or support would be most helpful for each of our clients. Some appreciate recipe suggestions, some are looking for a grocery list of key ingredients, a reminder list of do’s and don’ts, some need a chart with concrete options for daily breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and some like a combination of a handful of these,” the nutrition advisor for the COMO Group tells us.
“One-size-fits-all programmes just don’t work in my experience. And if they do, it’s far less sensitive to the ever-important nuances of each person and far less sustainable – during challenging times or for the long-term,” she adds.
Benefits of a customised pregnancy diet plan
But can pregnant mums not simply follow general advice on dietary requirements to nourish and sustain the pregnancy?
“Sure, general advice can sustain a pregnancy. Yet, it might not be enough to optimise a pregnancy. Most parents want what’s best for their children. And this usually begins the moment a woman learns she’s expecting. She feels an elevated sense of responsibility for her body, as it’s now the home of another human being. The finer wellness-related details become more important to her, and these aren’t addressed with basic dietary requirements,” Eve says.
According to Eve, another drawback to the general advice is that it doesn’t account for necessary adjustments. A general pregnancy diet plan, as opposed to a personalised one specific to your needs, will assume that all foods typically acceptable during pregnancy are fair game for all mothers without acknowledging food preferences, intolerances, allergies, availability, or budget.
In addition, during the nine-month period of time where your body is constantly evolving and changing, new surprises and challenges with regard to your diet may crop up; lifestyles may change, change can occur. You might even receive unexpected news about your pregnancy as it progresses and thus “working with a professional who can answer questions, flex, troubleshoot, or even completely revamp a personalised plan in real-time can be extremely important.”
Eve also notes that while many mum are interested in supplements as a way to ensure that they do not fall short in receiving any necessary nutrients to optimise their pregnancy, many do not know where to start and find themselves lost in the vast array of options available.
“Most doctors suggest a folate supplement and/or a prenatal supplement. However, few are able to explore the adequacy of the diet and suggest other supplements that might be necessary or helpful. Likewise, mothers often receive little guidance on the appropriate dosage or duration. With the maze of products available, many mothers want to purchase brands with the highest quality and credibility, but don’t know where to start. Ideally, we’d like the needs of both baby and mother – to be safely and completely met. This is hard to ensure without targeted support,” she further adds.
Most importantly, Eve notes that following a customised pregnancy diet plan can sometimes thwart certain pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infections, anaemias, and other complicating conditions.
Personalised plans give you specific ingredient combinations that can be invaluable for stabilising blood sugar levels and pressure levels, and work to best optimise absorption of various nutrients.
“Generalised plans often offer recipes, superfoods, or a weekly map of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Regrettably, they don’t offer guidance on portions. And rightly so, since every woman’s calorie needs differ, depending on body weight, activity and similar details,” she says.
“A customised plan can and should tend to these variables. Furthermore, should medical conditions and concerns during the pregnancy develop, it helps to have a living, breathing professional who can engage with all other members of the healthcare team, monitor any test results, and integrate food and beverage recommendations with medical treatments,” Eve notes.
Personalised pregnancy diet plans: Should you go for it?
Now that we are aware of the benefits of a customised pregnancy diet plan, why else would it be a good decision for pregnant mothers to engage a professional to develop a personalised programme for them?
“It comes down to effectiveness, efficiency and ease,” Eve says.
- Effectiveness: One woman’s pregnancy can be completely opposite from another’s, and every pregnancy is different. “Most mothers share that their first pregnancy in no way resembled their second, third, and so on. What works for one mother or one pregnancy, may offer little-to-no help – or worse, potentially harm – to another. As such, a plan focused only on your body and your circumstances – is better likely to offer genuine support than a generalised regime developed by someone who will likely never even know your name,” she notes.
- Efficiency: “So much dialogue about what’s best during pregnancy – from family, friends, colleagues and information overload from the media (books, blogs, websites, etc.). Researching to weed out fact from fiction – not to mention the trial-and-error process of trying different approaches – can be both time-consuming and exhausting. Working with someone who can narrow it down with you and for you, can save precious time and energy – both of which tend to be in shorter supply during pregnancy,” Eve adds.
- Ease: “Pregnancy can be a whirlwind of anticipation and excitement for new mums, as they reorient their minds and lifestyles to make room for a new person. Second-time mums are usually doubly or triply busy as they juggle older kids already present and plan for the little one on the way. Emotions, and not to mention hormones, are often heightened and fluctuating. A personalised programme allows mums to make nutrition a priority, with far less uncertainty or preoccupation. Many feel a sense of relief knowing that a trained professional is looking after them as they do their best to make mindful meal and snack choices,” she further adds.